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Bentgate Mountaineering

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Multipitch Climbing Staff Picks and Pro Tips Part 1

Posted by Will Shaw on

Efficiency in multi pitch climbing comes with time, practice, and experience, but with each improvement to your system you will able to move faster and cover more ground before dark, before weather hits, or before you’re late to work. These are some of our favorite pieces of gear for multi pitch climbing and some of our pro tips to help you get the most out of your day off ground.

Our top pick for a belay device is the Edelrid Mega Jul. We like the Mega Jul for its brake assist, top belay or guide mode, and double rope capabilities. At 65g it is slightly heavier than the Petzl Reverso 4, but the brake assist feature essentially saves the weight of a grigri. Though you should keep a brake hand on the rope at all times, the Mega Jul gives some extra piece of mind while sorting out a tangle while belaying. Our top pick for a belay carabiner with the Mega Jul is the Edelrid HMS Bruce Steel because it creates an all steel belay system. Steel is much slower to wear than aluminum and won’t turn your rope black. The I-beam shape of the HMS Bruce Steel also helps to bite on the rope for extra holding power where a more rounded carabiner will allow the rope to slip slightly. If the weight (140g) scares you away, then consider the HMS Strike, which is an aluminum version weighing in at (70g). New from Edelrid, the HMS Bulletproof Screw Gate weighs 82g and uses a steel insert to reduce wear on the otherwise aluminum carabiner.

HMS Bruce Steel, HMS Bulletproof Screwgate, and HMS Srike from left to right

We like two options for multi pitch packs that offer two different approaches to how to make a pack climb well. Up first is the Mammut Neon Speed, and second, the Black Diamond Creek 20

Mammut’s Neon Speed is a low profile 15L pack that sits high on the back to stay clear of your harness and chalk bag. Trail running style shoulder straps with double sternum straps keep the pack from shifting, and VENtech breathable mesh makes the pack light and breathable. The Neon Speed folds into a small pocket on the lid and packs down to the size of a burrito if you’re carrying it in a larger pack on an approach. An extra panel can expand outward for helmet carry or makes a good pocket for a wet rain shell. An external rope carry supplements the 15L capacity and makes it just enough to carry a light rack into the flatirons for a quick outing.

We like the Neon Speed for its close to body fit and versatility. It’s a pack that you can put on and keep wearing because it is comfortable and won’t get in your way. It makes a great pack for alpine running, and mountain biking, and some of us even use it for ultralight ski touring.

Black Diamond’s Creek 20 is a haul bag style 20L pack with a large dump pocket and drawstring closure. A single internal zipper pocket helps keep your smaller items organized. Its bomber construction offers a different solution to hard climbing with a pack -- haul it. While the Creek 20 is compact enough for moderate climbing, the waist strap can be removed, and the shoulder straps tuck away to convert this pack into a haul bag with two oversized attachment points at the top. We like this feature for steep crux pitches and chimneys where any pack would get in the way. The Creek 20 has no external gear pockets, but a top strap for rope carry creates enough space to carry a light rack on the approach.

We can’t help but include Mammut’s Multipitch Chalk Bag in the pack section. It’s the perfect tool for climbing a few pitches and then rappelling back to your gear. It obviously holds chalk and has a wide opening for easy access, but two additional zipper pockets have enough space for your phone, some snacks, and a buff for sun protection. A small mesh pocket keeps gummies handy, and elastic cord on the bottom of the Multipitch Chalk Bag holds a lightweight shell securely in place. Show here with the Arcteryx Squamish Hoody as well as Clif Sho Blocks, Pro-Bar, Phone, and Keys. Don't forget to fill it with Climbing Addicts Chalk.

For this week’s pro tip we'll address communication. A lot can go wrong with miscommunications while climbing, but almost all of these accidents are avoidable. One suggestion is to work to eliminate as much oral communication as possible. This will remove misunderstandings and keep other parties safer with less noise on the wall. Leader and second are separated, all that needs to be communicated is on and off belay. This is shop employee Will’s prefered system of communication.

  1. Leader finishes a pitch, builds an anchor, and calls “off belay” once
  2. If the belayer hears the leader, then he can take the leader off belay and respond
  3. Leader finalizes anchor setup and prepares to put second on belay
  4. Leader pulls up extra rope only when second can be put on belay immediately
  5. When the second feels the rope pull tight he or she can climb in 15-20 seconds

For the above system to work, it is important that the team establish that the leader will only pull the rope tight when the second is on belay or about to be on belay, and that the second will feed slack as long as the leader needs it. In a scenario where the belayer does not hear the leader’s “off belay” the belayer will end up feeding all of the excess rope through the belay device, but that is preferable to being taken off belay early. The advantage to this system is that a breakdown in communication does not compromise safety or stop forward progress. If both parties can hear each other, then everything runs smoothly, but if not the process is already established, and there is no confusion about what to do.

If you and your partner insist on using oral commands, and when using the minimal ones listed above, always lead with your partner’s name. There are very few instances in climbing that you should truly “always” do something, but this is one of them. You don’t want to be taken off belay early because your belayer heard someone else ask to be taken off any more than the party next to you, so be specific.

  • Rock Climbing
  • Multipitch Climbing
  • Edelrid
  • Mammut
  • Black Diamond Equipment

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